They’re joking, right?

There are signs around town that state ‘Nanaimo is a Nuclear Weapons free zone‘ I kid you not. As if Nuclear weapons could read. Maybe if it all goes pear shaped over the Ukraine, our one hope is that maybe the Russian targeting officers can’t pronounce the towns name and cross it off their list.
Hey Boris. what about Nana-whatever? This place here?
Ivan, if you can pronounce it we’ll nuke it.
Nanna-e. Nyet! Naimimimo. No. Nonnimio. Bugger it Boris, lets just bomb Campbell River instead.”

Seriously, there’s EU hawks getting their knickers in a twist about the Ukrainian situation. Talk of European troop deployments in a place that I always remember as part of Russia. The Crimea has decided it wants to be part of Russia, and the EU are crying “Foul! Ref!” Over the referendum. Although it’s odd that there were so few shooting incidents. In the same time frame, there were actually more reported gun related deaths in Vancouvers gangland. You’d think there would be quite a few if the situation were as bad as some of the Western media would have us believe.

I grew up during the Cold War, when Nuclear midnight was often only ‘minutes’ away. It was the reason so many of my generation went ‘off the rails’. If you’re going to fry in a nuclear fireball anyway, why not have a continual party to see the dear green Earth off with a nicer type of bang? When it all came to an end in 1989 I was left feeling rather pleased, but with a string of epic hangovers reaching back to my 18th birthday. It’s worth noting that anyone under the age of 18 does not get hangovers, strange but true. However, this is besides the point.

The western media has been busy spray painting old Vlad Putin as the cold tyrant of a gangster republic. Which he’s certainly got the eyes for. Oo, and didn’t those eeevil Roosians jail some crap girl punk band for desecrating a church? Gosh, dwahleegs, the Russki’s are so naughty. Russian ‘defence’ spend is up 18%, so yes, they’re expecting trouble. They have forces on the Eastern Ukrainian border, just in case anyone tries to get funny. There’s talk of mercenaries inside the Ukraine, but no one seems to be quite sure whose.

It is worth noting, back in the Cold War, Russia had the Warsaw Pact countries acting as a series of buffer states between it and the rest of Europe. Which is quite understandable. Russia does not trust Europe for two good historical reasons; Hitler and Napoleon. The memory of the German invasion of ‘Operation Barbarossa‘ and Napoleon in a burning Moscow are both still raw wounds in the Russian psyche. Not to mention that messy business back in the 1850s. Read Johnathan Dimblebys Russia. We have a copy. Quite the eye opener.

Yet most of the war talk is coming from within the EU. I am seriously concerned that if some of the Euro Hawks get their way, NATO will get dragged in, and with it Canada, which I’d really rather not see happen. I mean call me an old fussyboots, but seeing a shooting war blot out half of the world is not the kind of legacy I want my kids having to deal with. Over the next few years I want to travel this little planet some more, and I would be quite delighted if it wasn’t a radioactive wasteland.

As an addendum; as poignant now as when it was first released in 1985.


Update:
Good news. Putin has told Europe to pay the Gas bill, and everything will be fine. The Eurocrats appear to have backed down. Until they can work out another devious ploy to keep the political ponzi scheme that is the EU expanding.

Spotting a scam

I love Canadians. They’re so damn, well, uncomplicated. Rather like Paul Gross’s Mountie character Benton Fraser from ‘Due South‘ they’re extremely polite (mostly), easy going (except when the cable TV cuts out in the middle of the Hockey game) and oh so pleasant to deal with (when not being terribly passive-aggressive). At least in comparison to their UK counterparts who often are all too ready to froth at the mouth and throw Teddy out of the pram at the least provocation. Unfortunately this makes many of my Canadian friends all too vulnerable to every scammer and confidence trickster who sees an easy mark.

To the practised eye, scams stand out like pink sparkly searchlights in the night. Mainly because they sound like some modern day fairy tale. Long lost relative, or friend of a friend left you a huge pile of cash / winning lottery ticket / lost treasure of the Golden Behind in their will, and they just need your bank details to pass your good fortune to you?  Yeah, right.

Disney don’t make ‘em any better.  Pixie dust,  Unicorns and Rainbows rule.  Polar Bears are fluffy, huggable things, not massive slavering predators always on the hunt for protein.  Any protein.  Including human.  Oh yeah, and Dolphins are kind and gentle, if you conveniently forget about the beating Harbour Porpoises to death thing, yeah?

Now to us cynical sorts, whose eyes have been forced open by dealing with the slings and arrows of outrageous UK local authorities, the single rule to apply is; if it sounds too good to be true then it is.

A Canadian friend of ours recently got taken in by scammers. When he finally got round to showing me the email that had kicked it all off I put my face in my hands, groaned quietly and asked. “You haven’t sent these people any money have you?” He had the good grace to admit that yes he had.
“You know this is a scam, don’t you? For Pete’s sake mate, don’t send them any more.” I groaned. The scammers were asking for five thousand bucks to release several millions from a ‘locked’ bank account in the Far East.

So how easy was the con to spot? Very. Childs play in fact. I get two dozen of these missives a week, aren’t I a lucky chap? I derive considerable amusement from reading them all before throwing said missives into my yawning pit of hell-spam, ne’er to be seen this side of eternity. All right Bill smartarse Sticker, if you’re so bleeding clever, why don’t you tell all the boys and girls out in there interweb land how to spot one of these con tricks? Plaisir mon vieux. There now follows a brief lesson in scam spotting.

When one of these ‘too good to be true’ emails lands in your inbox. Ask yourself the following questions;

  1. Who is this?
  2. Where did they get my details?
  3. What is said glittering prize?
  4. Why did they pick me?
  5. How come they write such appalling English?

If any one of these questions make your bullshit detectors twitch, bin the offending email.  Or at least run a few simple checks. Does your benefactor really work at the United Nations? No matter how much their cause may tug at your heartstrings. African orphanages, baby animals threatened by eeeevil hunters or whatever. Remember, a little judicious cynicism now will save a whole heap of heartbreak later. I routinely bin these false messages of monetary gain because I never buy lottery tickets. You’d be better off betting on three legged horses at those odds. I also really used to know two people who worked for the UN in Geneva, but we don’t talk. Not even at Xmas. I don’t have any long lost relatives. Certainly none that would give me any money. Besides, any such offer would come directly from a UK based lawyer who I could check out in the phone book.  Any such legacy would also have to make it unscathed through a family who can make a shoal of ravenous Piranhas look like charm school graduates. There are specialists who trace relatives of large and small fortunes, but they write well spelled, grammatical English, and never, ever, ever, ask for your bank details or cash up front to ‘unlock’ funds.   Not even in ‘good faith’.  Nor do any of them live and work in Nigeria.   That last statement might be considered ‘raaaaacist’, but it is nonetheless correct.

If still not sure; check the originating email address.  If the organisation is a .com, why does the email address  end in .in.th?   It takes ten seconds to check out using WHOIS.com.   Is there a phone number?  Type said phone number into the search bar of your web browser and let Google, Bing, or any one of the many search engines bring enlightenment to your browser.   Then try one of the local phone directory services.  411.com for North America or in the UK 118118.com. The work of seconds.

When finding out that you are not heir or beneficiary to a massive business deal / lost millions, which the tax man would no doubt want an unhealthy bite out of, console yourself thus; it might have been real, but with all the scams out there, the odds are that it wasn’t. Add the sender to your spam or junk mail list and move on. There’ll be another one along shortly. That much is guaranteed.

Where does the money go?

Having just got back from the UK, I’m wondering about all the taxes on, well, just about everything. These extra taxes acting as a drag on the rest of the economy. So I asked myself, where is all this money actually going? Cui Bono? Who benefits? Does taxation, as so many of its advocates claim, actually increase, or decrease ‘fairness’? These are all fair questions which need fair answers.

At present UK public spending outdoes the tax take by an estimated £84 billion per year. Most of that disparity is interest payments an the estimated £2.2 trillion public debt if you factor in the public ownership, liabilities and support of RBS, Lloyds TSB etc. Total 2012-13 tax take by HMRC, about £468 billion. According to their own figures. So where’s the £648 billion figure come from? Confused? Join the club. £180 billion isn’t just chump change. Besides, government doesn’t make money, it has none of its own and only spends taxpayer dollar.

The approximate 2013 UK public spending breakdown is as follows. Public Pensions for well, people the workforce has decided it no longer needs. Let’s ignore all those overpaid leeches on salaries well above their real pay grade for the moment; £139 billion. National Health Care, you know, for that wonderful ‘free’ service which includes such joys as the ‘Liverpool Care Pathway‘ and compensation payments to Ambulance chasing Lawyers; over £124 billion. State Education, the edifice which no amount of political meddling seems to improve; over £87 billion. Defence, for all those wars the UK really can’t afford to fight, including the one the EU wants to declare on Russia; about £42 billion. Social Security, which includes all those ‘tax credits’ which would be cheaper to run if the tax wasn’t taken in the first place; over £117 billion. State Protection, whatever that means; over £31 billion. Transport about £17 billion. Which is a lot to cover cones, contraflows and potholes. General Government, an opaque description if ever I saw one; over £14 billion. Other Public Services, hmm, large Rattus Norvegicus smelt here; over £54 billion. Public Sector Interest, on the money the Government borrowed to buy the votes of the ill informed and lazy; over £47 billion. Additional Balance, or should that read ‘petty cash'; over £2 billion. Total Spending about £675 billion, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. The UK’s EU contribution hidden somewhere in those figures is about £8.7 billion. Source here. Somewhere in that lot is the electronic money ‘printed’ by ‘Quantative easing’ of well over £60 billion and paid direct to banks. No wonder we hear about planned raids on savings and other legalised theft like ‘Green taxes’. It’s a financial plughole of doom. Which will be the last metaphorical straw on the proverbial taxpayers back? Bank accounts raided at will?

According to this neat little infrographic from the Guardian, the difference is £84 billion, which needs to be ‘borrowed’. No idea from whom, but £47 billion in interest payments alone? My one remaining reader will note the disparity between the two sets of figures referenced. Hey, but what’s the odd billion or three between friends, eh?

The discerning reader, having done a little digging, will also note the step increase in UK taxation that happened back in 2000 and the flattening in public spending since 2011. So yes, Slaphead and friends are trying, but the purchase of the banks and resultant QE have doomed the UK taxpayer to ever increasing interest payments. Unless those debts and liabilities are sold off, those interest payments will continue to head for the stars faster than a Saturn 5 booster with a nuke up its arse.

Last time it took the UK eighteen years to bring the taxation rate and public spending into financial balance. 1998 / 9 I believe. Then Blair and his pile of grinning idiots were voted in, public debt skyrocketed and the tax take hasn’t caught up since. Figures don’t lie. No wonder the politicians are trying to skim off more and more all the time. We were told all this extra spending was all about ‘fairness’. What it has done is lumber current and future generations with an escalating debt bigger than World War 2. Which I don’t think has been fair at all.

Noah

Don’t normally do movie reviews. On this occasion I’d like to offer my thoughts on the current pseudo biblical epic ‘Noah‘ starring Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins and Ray Winstone.

Here goes. Technically the CGI is a tour de force. Good, strong, character performances from the excellent Mr Crowe and Mr Hopkins. Ray Winstone oozed psychotic menace like only he can. Sadly the script is a turkey, a preachy piece of proselytising, apocalyptic eco-garbage that sent me to sleep half way through. That’s a first. I have never gone to sleep in a cinema before. Ever. I’ve only ever walked out on one movie in 1972, a cranky old Frankie Howerd vehicle called ‘The House in Haunted Park‘, and if it hadn’t been for my wife’s insistence on staying to the end credits of ‘Noah’, I’d have been out of there in the first half hour. Before we went in I was eager to watch, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and I’d even dosed up on coffee an hour beforehand. To no avail. I was out for the count around the half way marker. Mid afternoon. Go figure.

Tinfoil hat adjusted

Excuse the relative silence, but I’ve had to watch relatives die recently. The old grim reaper has been on overtime in our vicinity, and grief has been the baseline emotion underscoring our little clans daily lives. Funny thing grief. Sometimes it’s not the person who dies who has the hard time, but their nearest and dearest. So it is with us. Grieving makes people say and do crazy, out of character things. They lash out. Often at people who only want to help. Dealing with the grief of others is a skill I have obtained a little, if unwanted, education in. Comes with maturity I guess. There are times being a grown up sucks. This is one of many.

So I’m not surprised at the reactions to current speculation surrounding Malaysian Airlines MH370. The Malaysian Government are being accused of not releasing information, which they probably aren’t sure about, and don’t want to look like a bunch of idiots by tipping their hand prematurely. Remember all the fuss about the pilot, a highly experienced professional by all accounts, being branded a ‘Terrorist’? Well, here’s a thing; the FBI found nothing suspicious on his home flight simulator. Apart from a few innocuous ‘deleted files’. So he deleted some files on his hard drive. Who doesn’t? Then there was the much vaunted ‘All right – goodnight’ which was a mis-attribution of the co-pilots sign off remark with ground control? Talk about grasping at straws. The most plausible speculation came from a pilot who argued that a cockpit electrical fire would have firstly caused the transponder failures, and secondly, sent the aircrew looking desperately for the closest place to land, but incapacitated them before they could make a landing. So the plane flew on autopilot until it ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea. No terrorists, no kidnaps, just sheer dumb bad luck and maybe a bit of bad maintenance, but that’s for the crash investigators to find out.

There is one aspect of the whole MH370 affair that I find oddly comforting. In the wake of the Snowden revelations about world wide and domestic surveillance, it’s funny that this massive big brother machine hasn’t a clue about where something as big as a Boeing 777-200R, and little media mention of the incident reports on this aircraft type. Maybe the reports of ‘intelligence’ omnipotence and competence are being massively over sold?

In a word, predictable

Spring is here, with all its gentle showers, methinks it’s time to hack the Prince to death. Or release another hyped up piece of scaremongering like the IPCC AR5. A report that at least one leading academic has sought to distance himself from. A report that had to be ‘sexed up’ before release. Really. If disaster is all that bleeding obvious, then why does the ‘evidence’ (If a heavily politically doctored report can be called evidence) need ‘sexing up’, hmm?

Frankly me dears, this is getting tedious in the extreme. The lie that is catastrophic man made climate change is being trotted out again like some arthritis tortured show pony well overdue the kindness of a final bullet. No one with a functioning brain cell really believes it any more. The climate models these assertions are based upon might just as well have been produced by Airfix for any semblance of reality they hold and any forecasts based on these models have less than one percent accuracy when compared with a weather rock.

The politicians and true believers would have us all think that if only we were to give up our modern way of life and live ‘closer to nature’ the birds would sing, the flowers would bloom, and no-one would ever get a nasty, icky disease ever again. Good luck with that one. I’ve done the whole closer to nature thing, and can assure my one remaining reader that it’s either too hot or cold, insects bite, birdshit drops on you, and small cuddly looking things take a nibble at your extremities if you sit or lie still for too long. There is no romance in ant or mosquito bites let me tell you, and apart from bacteria all over everything, there’s fungal spores, viruses and all sorts of unpleasantness lurking out there. Been there, done that. Give me a nice warm bed in a well insulated and heated house free of extraneous wildlife any day.

Then the true believers say there’s just too many people. Okay, if that’s the case, there’s a nice high cliff over there, off you go. Leave your parachute with me, I’ll take care of it for you. Don’t forget to get sterilised, just in case you get the urge to pass on your genes before you jump. This is another lie. There’s a demographic depopulation coming anyway across the West as those born during the nineteen forties and early fifties ‘baby boom’ line up to shuffle off this mortal coil. You know, those people who paid taxes all their lives and now find themselves freezing because ‘green taxes’ are putting the heating bills beyond their taxation raided pensions reach. Similarly China, with its one child policy is beginning to hit the buffers as there’s a burgeoning gender imbalance. All because of a pseudo-environmentalist lie.

Stuff it. What really pisses me off is that my children and their children after them will suffer. The world will be a poorer place. On the other hand there is hope because if the world gets poorer, there won’t be enough money around to pay all the people pushing the lie of man made global catastrophe and the whole bloated edifice will collapse. I derive some ironic amusement from this thought as it’s all so, well, predictable.

Keeping a watching brief

Not much time or inclination to post of late, as personal matters and work have rather taken over my life. However I’m keeping up to date on current events. Crimea, UK economy, the constant dunderheadedness of bureaucrats professional politicians, and the foolishness of their various useful idiots. Just watching, making notes and keeping the absurdity checks up to date. When I’ve got something to say, I’ll say it.

If the answer is tax

Just taking my usual Sunday meander through the frothing unreality of the Tellytubbygraph. I see Vlad Putin being lauded as the current object of the UK medias eleven o’clock hate as they try to stir up the populace. The herd of elephants in the room of course being EU intervention in Ukrainian affairs and massive skimming from pipeline contracts by Ukrainian politico’s. Which monies somehow never got back to the Ukrainians, while certain of their politicians became billionaires. Mm-hm. Over here in Canada, the local Ukrainian population are being heard muttering over their plates of Perogies about how the more things change the more they stay the same. Pass the sour cream. So it is with us ex-pat Brits.

At the moment the current UK media bogeyman is not salt, alcohol, tobacco or fats but sugar, which is found in just about every processed food there is. No surprise there, then. Sugars of one form or another are part of the elements of life. Monosaccharides (Simple sugars) include Glucrose, Fructose and the sci-fi sounding Galactose. Disaccharides (Complex sugars) include Sucrose, Maltose and Lactose. Most plants, as I recall from various biology courses I’ve taken, have a certain amount of sugars tucked neatly away in their edible parts. Starches (Polysaccharides), like the ones used in all those ‘Healthy Option’ ready meals as filler are little more than complex sugars.

So the dilemma for the ‘tax everything’ brigade becomes what sort of comestible will be sugar tax exempt. Of course those poor people need their lives regulating by their elders and betters, they’re such children don’cha know. So which foodstuffs need taxing and by how much? My goodness, what a target rich environment.

Okay, so where will all this new tax revenue go? Back in the pockets of the poor, who will grow more numerous as the tax rates increase, said revenue first having been heavily skimmed to pay for new, personnel heavy government departments to oversee ‘fairness’ and sending out ‘revenue neutral’ cheques? Maybe into the UK’s ‘wonderful’ NHS, the one you don’t want to end up in the care of lest your intimate details are sold to marketing companies and your elderly relatives starved or neglected to death? Whilst ensuring sufficient Management for ‘compliance’ with increasingly engorged cobweb encumbered databases of rules and regulations. Top rates must be paid to the managers of course to get the best ‘talent’, even if their only real talent is managing to navigate the HR departments Byzantine recruitment process. A new tax would come in handy to fund them, and their new staff no doubt.

On the face of it, this is a great idea. Tax sugar because it’s so unhealthy. Reduce consumption, cutting obesity at a stroke, and the costs to the NHS will go down. Fewer sick people to treat, right? Simple, elegant, and logical. Ah, but what was that shadow? The law of unintended consequences is lurking in the wings, awaiting it’s entrance in a puff of smoke, bringing chaos and confusion to the lofty utopian plans of the puritanical tax advocates.

It’s not a leap of genius to see that governmental costs (and hence the cost of living) will have to go up because now there will need to be an extra layer of compliance and enforcement for each new tax, easily gulping down the tranches of revenue thus garnered. Unfortunately the overall tax take will reduce because of the tax inflated prices, meaning that government has to borrow to fund these new government departments for command and control. Higher taxes and borrowing act as a brake on the economy, further lowering the tax take and therefore moving more people into the ‘Poor’ category, requiring more government intervention. Requiring more taxation and borrowing, yah-de-yah, etcetera, etcetera. The money has to come from somewhere. Maybe ex-pats savings. Damn those soon-to-be-poor rich bastards, eh? Just don’t forget to tell your influential friends to start moving their money before the new regs come in. Those middle class bitches can take the bite. Again. Those pensions are unsustainable anyway. By the way, where did all these new poor people come from? Anybody know?

Excuse me, I have a boat to buy, boarders to repel. All that jazz.

Boats and other impedimentia

Last weekend we went looking at boats. The object of this exercise is to sidestep all the dullness of living on land to find a slightly more interesting way of life. We’ve looked at houses, but quite frankly there’s not a place where Mrs S and I feel we would fit in. On a torrentially rainy day, on a muddy stretch of the Fraser river I think we found an answer. Not perfect, but certainly with all the comforts of home. GPS, depth sounder, radio, recent anti-fouling, Blue water capable, solid diesels, spare generators, which with a little internal remodelling, electrical upgrade and a satellite interweb connection would prove very liveable indeed. Reminder to self, shop around for a radar set. The boat has a washing machine, dishwasher and joy of joys a tumble dryer, as there’s nothing worse than not having a dry stitch to put on. Did I mention I spent some of my formative years bumming around on canals and canal boats? Before getting used to the vagaries of the English Channel. Being wet for days on end is no fun at all.

We came up with this wheeze a couple of years ago, but the stories of municipalities all around BC shoving out all the liveaboards gave us pause. What indeed is the point of having a decent boat as a base if you keep on getting moved on like some water borne Pikey? Now the heat is dying down, and there are places to moor up without the threat of summary eviction. I’ve also been cultivating contacts in the Marine section of the RCMP and local Harbour watch as a kind of insurance. Took an enhanced security check, but now I have legit ID to flash if need be. Never hurts to show you can jump the hoops. Having worked in municipal enforcement, I know how handy officially sanctioned ID can be in some circumstances. The trick is knowing when and how sparingly to use it.

What attracts me is the ability to simply up sticks for the weekend, scoot across to the bright lights of Vancouver or Seattle, moor up and go visit the bright lights for a few hours before coming home to your own cosy floating apartment. Or go work in Vancouver (without paying Vancouver prices), then shove off at the weekend for pastures new. Don’t like the neighbours? Hey, move on. Repel boarders (and snub the day boys and prefects- arr matey) There’s obstacles of course, surveys, insurance, fuel costs, boat security, permits etcetera, but nothing insuperable.

Expatriate expostulations from Canada

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